by Amy Jorgensen
When shopping for living room furniture, the most important piece is your couch or sofa. It will be at the hub of all your living room activity. In addition to sitting and relaxing on your comfortable couch or sofa, you'll offer this seating to any guests who happen to stop by. Although the terms "couch" and "sofa" are often used interchangeably and they do refer to similar pieces of furniture for the home, there are distinct differences that exist between the two.
Modern differences: Today, sofas and couches look similar, but there are ways to tell them apart. Most of today's sofas are made with plump cushions and soft, padded armrests. Sofas sometimes come with built-in beds, so the furniture can double as an extra-comfortable place for guests to sleep as well as sit and rest. The sofa is usually padded and comes with extra cushioning for additional comfort. A couch, on the other hand, is designed for you and your guests to sit and talk. A couch's back is usually straight, as are the arms. Couches generally do not have enough padding to make a comfortable place to sleep.
Other variations: In addition to couches and sofas, there is also the settee, which is a bench chair that is generally wide enough for two people. Other seating options include the Davenport, which refers to a couch that is larger than average and is heavily cushioned. There's also the Chesterfield, whose armrests and back supports are usually the same height.
Name origins: The word "sofa" can be traced back to the Arabic word "suffah," which translates into "bench." The word "couch" comes from the Latin verb "collocare," which means "to lie down."
Couch trivia: Couches were very popular among the Roman culture and appeared in dining rooms rather than living rooms. Three couches were placed around a table so men could relax on the couches as they ate and socialized. Women, on the other hand, had to sit on regular chairs.
Sofa trivia: When the term "sofa" was used in England in the 1600s, it referred to a part of the floor that was raised and covered in cushions for comfortable seating. In the 1700s, it referred to a long seat with a full back and raised armrests on both sides.